A quick pictorial ! on the process of creating keycaps.
I’ve missed out a few pictures, but this covers the basics. Using a timer, it’s around half hour all-up per keyboard. Sometimes a little more if a print fails!
Tried to make a ‘GOLD’ keyboard but need to research a little on how to keep the particles suspended. This one failed due to too much gold. It all sunk to the bottom causing layers to become underexposed and ultimately sticking to the FEP
Also tried to make a crystal clear keyboard…unfortunately I topped up the vat with a tiny bit of the gold mix from a poorly labelled bottle I use f or mixing (I didn’t write any label!) I’ll give these away with a kit to the first person that asks 🙂
Quite late into development, I’d realised that the F keys were supposed to be a different colour. So, I add two sets of F keys to kits. Some early ones went out without the extras. Happy to send some out if you shout.
I’ve now packed up 10 kits ready to be shipped and have emailed the first 10 people on the waiting list.
It’s been an expensive couple of months with the bad PCB’s and wrong arduinos, but, payday at the day job was two days ago, so i’ve already ordered enough additional parts to make everyone happy within a few weeks
I’ll work may way up through the waiting list and let you all know when I can finally make general stock available.
My New PCB’s will be here today! DHL shipping is expensive, but great when you need stuff quickly!
What this means – I should have general stock next week.
Timeline – I’ll get a test board built up this week. if that works, I’ll email out everyone who expressed an interest.
I’ll get everything kitted up through the week (time permitting) so I can get some posted this weekend.
The rest of the weekend will be spent kitting up everything I have so I can start selling again.
Sorry for the delay guys (and gals). Been a perfect storm of wrong components sent, big customs delays, non-functional PCB’s. I thought the ‘march’ timeline was generous and had plenty of padding in for worst case.
For general availability, i’ll be reviewing the price. Most things have gone up by over 20% in general (Brexit, Yaay), some have come down, and i’ve made some optimisations. These projects aren’t a get rich quick scheme for me, they’re just a way for me to get funds together to buy more tools and things to make more projects! It’s pretty much a cost neutral hobby 😛
One final update – Keycaps. I’ve started manufacturing and at the time of typing, I have sent out a few test items to kit owners. I’ll await some feedback before I can hit ‘go’ and make more.
Those are just some of the prints i’ve had to do to get to where I am now. This isn’t representative of the typical resin printing workflow. its generally a bit easier than this, BUT, I had to start from scratch, learning how to do everything, including stuff that hasn’t been done by others. AND I needed the base level print to be ‘perfect’ to avoid the need to paint them. There’s over 80 hours of actual printing time in this picture, on top of that, there’s the cleanup time, CAD time, setup time….these are the ‘successful’ failures, there’s almost as much again that i’ve binned due to total failures, where keycaps were unusuable for anything, not even experiments (as these ones have been used for). fortunatley most of those failures were caught early to avoid too much wasted resin….but when I get only 1 chance in the evenings on some days to quickly iterate, get the printer going, 1 failure can set me back a few days.
Anyways, now i’ve finalised everything……..
I’ve used an entire bottle of resin over the last couple of weeks making test manufacturing prints back to back to tune the process, changing nothing, just print, print, print… By that, I mean, it’s…
Remove Print, clean up
top up resin
Cure cleaned up print
repeat until bottle is empty
I’m now at about 70% success rate for good saleable keycaps. the other 20% have minor blotches or surface uniformity issues, so i’ll sell those discounted for those that are interested. I’m still getting about 1 in 1o that can’t be used in any way.
Good enough, and i’m sure i’ll get better as time goes on. Each print takes 6.5 hours – slow, but reliable and a 25uM layer height so about as good as it gets on resin printing for surface finish.
Each print also takes another 30 minutes or so to ‘turn around’ –
Remove from bed
set printer up again to print the next item
clean print (1 minute soak in IPA, then 5 minutes in ultrasonic bath then another couple of minutes under a warm running tap)
Dry Print – This is critical to good finishes. Some are taking up to 3 days, overnight in cardboard boxes near the radiator. I need to do a few checks in that time to ‘dab off’ excess moisture that leeches out of the print. Any moisture left on the tops of the keycaps alters the surface finish.
Cure print – this takes time also. I’ve found using UV lights (wash and cure station) warps the keys more often than not. Once the caps are dry, I leave them a couple of days in the conservatory. After that, i’ll blast them for a few minutes under UV light to finish the curing
Then it’s pack them up ready for posting!
And, Pack some up, ready for posting I have! I’ve done a mix of ‘on the supports’ and ‘loose in bags’ to see how these things go. I’ve posted a couple to myself via friends overseas to see if they survive!. once I know what i’m doing is working, I’ll make them available for sale!
8 sets of keycaps ready to go, waiting feedback from testers before I can ship!
Happy chappy this morning. They finished printing last night, my draining widget worked a treat – I’ll put a quick GIF up soon.
But, forgot about them until a mad panic at close to 1AM remembering I’d left them on the printer. With these, you can’t as the resin in the concave surfaces will part set in the morning and cause an uneven surface.
So, quickly washed them in IPA, regretted it immediately as it was dirty. Did another wash in IPA to clean the resin and straight to the hot water tap and larger bowl with a brush to clean off the bits. I’ll strain out the bowl later.
Final tweak needed now is the amount of grip to the switches themselves, shrinkage is variable at the moment, can’t go too small or keycaps may break when putting on, can’t go too big or they’ll be too wobbly and fall off.
May need to go middle ground and require a tiny blob of something sticky in each keycap, I’ll know soon enough!
Has some successes with varying mixes of pigments! Wifey demanded I do a bronze one.
Fine adjustments needed only now and it’ll be a wrap.
….problem is, fine adjustments’ll probably take another 80% of the total :-p
Now, gotta figure out how to get Arduinos quickly as 50 wrong ones just turned up and due to Chinese New Year my expedited (expensive) DHL delivery won’t leave for a couple of weeks, D’oh! Best laid plans….
Well, final furlong for the 3D printing part anyway! Next step, investigating colouring in
When planning something, always allow time for ‘unseen’ stuff, or even anticipated issues that probably show up but you hope they don’t.
I’ve had two partially failed prints now, one fully expected and designed deliberately to see just how far I can remove supports or just how many I need to add
And, the one you see above. A large part of the bed failed to adhere so I stopped at 65%, just enough to recover the space bar…should have waited to 70% so I could grab a few of the bottom row also.
I’ve noticed slight warping in all prints but haven’t been that concerned till this failure.
On the plus side though, my new pigment colours arrived !
I now have a grip on how the colours mix and can iterate a little closer to the original brown now! It doesn’t help that I’m red/green colourblind so, matching brown, in the evenings , in the conservatory in non optimal lighting is probably a worst case scenario for me :-p
But, I can get close now and can get the wife to tweak the formula
One thing I’ve noted is that it can get expensive iterating colors in resin prints! I’m mixing 100ml at a time now, to start a new colour I’m dumping the old 100ml into my grey bottle! Can’t wait to see what colour that comes out as.
now, back to the print fails
First – Levelling. Seems my bed has become unlevel a little, so, I’ll need to re-level. This seems to be an excellent tutorial which i’ll follow.
Now, the warping. It’s something that I didn’t really experience much with my standard Filament printer, but now I clearly can see that it’s a common, but surmountable issue with Resin printers.
This’ll be a while away yet, but the REV4 PCB, has some new, experimental features that will possibly allow some extra functionality when used with stuff other than a C64 mini!
For the purposes of this kit though, the board is a little easier to solder due to slightly larger pads, I’ve also added silk screen ‘dots’ to the rear to show the only two pads you actually need to solder (or possibly one of the two if i’ve gone and goofed up the positioning! ).
I’ve removed the USB HELPER pads, these weren’t actually that useful
The other thing being added are pads that say ‘Joy’ – I’ve no idea if this will work, but my plan is to see if there’s any way to map the C64 Joystick onto the keyboard and then into a PC / MiSTer or other device with a USB socket. I’m putting these unpopulated pads on production boards as, now due to Brexit, it costs a fortune in customs fees and shipping for small orders of prototypes. I mayaswell order 50 boards which are tried and tested, with small mods on. If the mods don’t work, no loss – the boards still function just as sold.
If they work, AND i can develop the firmware, AND the software then it may add useful features for some people! But, my focus right now is getting the mini version perfect and not any extra features that require a lot of time for me to learn how to enable! If they’re ever enabled, i’ll probably spin them into a SMT only board so I can sell a ready assembled version for a little cheaper than the £60 i’m currently selling for
Also on this one, i’ve fixed the C64 header pin ordering to save people having to make an adaptor cable due to me swapping two columns and putting the rows in reverse!, D’oh!.
Couple of successful prints! Rev 6 – just binging in stuff and hoping it works.
Rev 7 – more scientific and better CAD – all letters are now 0.2mm wider and deeper. This tiny tweak shows spectacularly well just how big a difference small changes can make.
Still some more CAD to do but soo close to final now!
And, finally, the print itself. I’ve learned that supports are critical here. Lots of them!
There’s actually as much material here in the supports as there is in the keycaps, but if you scrimp a little and try to reduce the amount, check out the top left of the picture below. I lost the return key and a few smaller keys were taken with it.
This was a calculated ‘risk’ by leaving this section to just have the standard auto generated supports, every other area had super dense supports.
There will be a middle ground, which I’m working on as I’d like to offer these cheaply…less resin used = cheaper to make!
Also, note the rest of the supports. THey are SO EASY to remove. When I offer these keycaps for sale, again to reduce cost, I’ll probably leave them as you see here. Makes for more robust packing and if you decide to paint them, you already have them held down on a convenient stand!
If that prints, I can try adding black pigment to make it darker brown.
If it doesn’t, I can try using a CMYK mix of colours to make the correct Brown
Once I get that shade, I can try different resin bases to see what gives the best finish! Maybe clear + brown or white +CMYK will do the job!
I’ll be iterating the CAD model and the colouring at the same time!
Hopefully this new CAD model will fix the minor offset issues with the keyboard, shifting all the keys slightly to the right also allowing me to finally reveal a working test fit!
One small thing I picked up when test fitting my first attempt, I’d not perfectly centred the left shift key button and Return buttons on the PCB. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things as hacking your own keycaps doesn’t need perfect alignment on the wider keys, only the 1 wide keys
Where it is annoying though is I can’t correct this error or any keycaps I make now won’t perfectly align on old keyboards! Heh, what’s 1/2mm between friends eh!
That’s right, A few of you found me from Mr Perri Fractic’s channel on Youtube
There’ll be a little more coming up i’ve been told!
Highly recommend if you like anything slightly retro, give his channel a watch, superb production quality to it, great sense of humour and , generally seems to be a lovely chap that really brings out your inner childhood enthusiams for these weird old gadgets that a lot of us love.
Also, he’s getting close to 100,000 subscribers, so definitely is doing something right
Most people would say this was caused by an over excited person, whom, upon waking early and discovering the complete print decided to not follow the correct drying / washing procedures in order to get it finished quickly!
I, err, disagree…
Either way, I now have a firm grasp of changes needed to the CAD model and also the supports needed in the slicer.
Those changes are fairly substantial, so I expect it’ll be a little while for my next update, happy to document them also if anyone’s interested.
After quite some nervous trepidation, I finally shoved some resin into the printer and achieved my first ever resin print.
And, amazingly, some stuff worked! Significantly more than I’d expected to work actually.
I’ve been quite ‘scared’ of actually starting a print, I‘ve read too much about toxicity and fumes, which aren’t things you want with two young kids.
Well, I spent a couple of hours doing some final reading, and setting up on the dining room table. Levelled the bed, levelled it again. Shoved in the resin and…a Spectacular success for me!
I know the print failed mainly due to poor supports, some text is also too fine. Both were concerns with the cad and the slicer and easily fixed 🙂 there’s probably a dozen other issues I’ve not found yet also (it’s been 30 minutes since I wash and cured them fresh off the printer)
Next step, iterating, optimising . It could be done in a few weeks at print 3, it could be print 10 and take a few months , but now I’m over the first hurdle, onwards and upwards!!
A very talented Hans Liss from the Facebook group – TheC64 Mini has make a perfect assembled kit.
Drool over the photos below
Note the extras like the hacked up USB hub to make it slimline
The Extra UART connector that he’s added, and the nigh on perfect Keybaord keycap butchery!
Hans also helped by pointing out a few errors i’ve made with the original firmware sent out with the kits. I spent a couple of weeks figuring out how to fix it and have a new HEX file for those that want it.
There’s still some ‘not quite exactly commodore’ quirkery happening – which i’m working on, but i’ll bet that 99% of you won’t be able to figure it out. I’ve only found out due to Hans’s extensive knowledge of the C64 inner workings and also me, downloading the original user manual for the Commodore 64.
A funny story about multi sourcing components and the importance of testing before shipping!
I used a supplier on Aliexpress to purchase a few thousand switches in a few orders over a few months but their prices went up quite drastically after the last order (doubled!!) they weren’t the cheapest to start with but were reliable and friendly, worth the extra ££
I found another supplier who did a good deal for a full bag of 4000! Ordered them and waited, very quick delivery and friendly also (will buy again!)
I built my first test new keyboard with the new PCB and switches
It didn’t work. Well, actually, it did! Work perfectly…but in reverse :-p …..
If you mashed every key simultaneously then only released the key you want to press….it worked!! Yeah, the supplier sent me 4000 ‘inverted’ switches! My fault for not checking prior to ordering, they ‘look the same’ so ‘must be the same’ was a wrong assumption on my part! (At least they all weren’t the shift lock type!!)
It’s a VERY easy fix though (found after several panicked hours of testing and building Keyboards)…rotate the switch 180 degrees and it’s perfect!
In each kit I’ve included a small errata note and list of basic instructions to help. It’s an annoyance but for you guys it really just means the silk screen doesn’t quite match the switch orientation so just ask first. Look at the pictures and of any doubt, email/messenger/twitter/Reddit me 🙂